Days 27 & 28. For the grand finale of 28 Authors, 28 Variations on a List, we’re pleased to present the author/illustrator and life team Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis, whose collaboration Wildwood has been hailed as both beautiful to behold and to read. Wildwood has been number one on the NW Independent Bestseller List for children for most of the holiday season. Meloy and Ellis cemented their relationship with NW indies when they agreed at Book Expo America last spring to let them use art from Wildwood for the 2011 Holiday Books guide.
Meloy is the singer and songwriter for the band The Decemberists, where he says he channels “all of his weird ideas into weird songs.” This is his first novel. Ellis is the acclaimed illustrator of several books for children, including The Composer is Dead, Dillweed’s Revenge and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Meloy and Ellis live with their son, Hank, in Portland, quite near the Impassable Wilderness.
Here, they collaborated on Colin and Carson’s Big Book Recommendations, Holiday Edition, 2011, with links to their favorite indie store in the Northwest, Powell’s.
1. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. Carson and I hadn’t read much middle-grade fiction since we were kids, when we both absorbed/consumed the stuff like crazy. But we’ve recently taken to diving into some of the more modern classics of the genre—which brought us to Adam Rex’s terrific book about a double alien invasion. This thing is so funny and weird and smart you’d think the guy channeled the ghosts of Douglas Adams and Steven Spielberg (granted, Mr. Spielberg has not yet crossed over) to birth it into the world. So good. So good.
2. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy. I’m going to confess bias on this one; my sister, an accomplished author of novels for adults (sometimes saying ‘adult novel’ can be misleading, if you catch my drift), wrote this book. But even if she were my fifth cousin, twice removed, I would still say that it’s a brilliant and engaging story about the cold war and spies and secrets and magic and shape changing. Awesome.
3. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. Set in the Idaho panhandle in the early 20th century, the story in this slim novel is told with such simple grace and beauty that I defy you not to read it in one sitting.
4. Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton. Beaton, I’m given to understand, got her start on the Internet, which is where all the stars are born these days. Her four-panel (and sometimes more!) comics are so funny and great. What’s more, Napoleon Bonaparte figures heavily into the humor, as does the French Revolution. So you can’t really go wrong there. Supercool!
5. In Red by Magdalena Tulli. This little book is published stateside by a fantastic small press called Archipelago. Written by the celebrated Polish novelist Tulli, it follows the various strange episodes that take place in a small, imaginary town in Europe that weathers the frequent upheavals of the late 19th and early 20th century. A girl dies, but her heart stays beating; a young man is shot by his own bullet, which has circled several times around the earth; men returned from the war arrive by train with a red thread in their hair, signifying their own inevitable death. A lovely and heartbreaking fairy tale.